Jim Siergey: Resolute Shuns

December 27th, 2019

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions but I’ve been thinking about doing so for the upcoming year.

It will be 2020 so attempting to have clarity in one’s life, to see things clearly, to rid oneself of all interfering astigmatism seems to make sense.

First of all I would like to cease turning inconsequential things into ulcer-producing episodes. There are, I must admit, little things that irk me to no end.

One thing that particularly irks me is how the print media now refers to Chicago’s rapid transit system. I am, of course, referring to the inexplicable usage of the term, the “L”.

The “L”!??!  What in the Blue Line Blazes is that supposed to mean? Any true Chicagoan knows that it is called “the el”. “El”, of course, is short for “elevated” because the train runs on an elevated track in a loop around the downtown area (hence the moniker “The Loop”).  I suppose that’s where the “L’ comes into play, initializing The Loop. But the el runs elevated in other places beyond the Loop so it makes no sense.

Not to me anyway. Even freaking Wikipedia refers to it as the “L”. I’d like to meet the misinformed namby pamby pantywaist who wrote that entry. I’d give him a two-fisted verbal lashing the likes of which he’d never experienced before.  Hear me now, I don’t care how inundated I will get with print referrals to the “L”. To me it will be “the el” until they pry it from my cold, dead vocal cords!

 

chicagotransitauthority

Every Chicagoan knows this…

 

See what I mean?  I got a bit worked up over a silly thing like that.

I must learn to live with it, I guess.  I eventually learned to live with the CTA changing all the names of the various el lines to colors. No more Howard, Ravenswood or Lake. They’ve all been simplified into Red, Brown, Green, etc. A flagrant example of the continuation of the dumbing down of America, that’s what I call it.

Harrumph.

Another thing that gets me worked up is the silly, petty and selfish maneuver that is now accepted as a Chicago tradition. I am, of course, referring to “dibs”. Be still, my rapidly beating heart.

“Dibs”, as every Chicagoan knows, is an activity that occurs in the winter, sometimes when only a few snow flakes flutter to the city streets, but reserved mainly for heavy snowfalls.  A Chicagoan, like every other Chicagoan, spends an hour or more digging his car out of a snow drift. Once he digs it out so he can motor away with it, he leaves behind pieces of furniture to save his spot.  Dibs!

This makes the neighborhoods of Chicago look like a demented rummage sale.

What irks me about this, besides the fact that it is a public street that no one has the legal right to claim any patch of as his own, is that anyone who parks in the spot that you’ve dug out very likely had to dig his car out as well!

But that’s not how it works in the City of Big Shoulders to Cry On. If you move someone’s ragtag furniture so you can park your vehicle you run the risk of finding it damaged when you return. “Gee, it d be a shame if your car caught on fire or something.”

However, I stand before you, holier than thou, as a prime example of a solid citizen and a man of the people and state that in all the many decades I have lived, with a car, in Chicago I have never, ever, not even once, “dibbed” a parking space that I had shoveled out. Where’s my goddamn blue ribbon?

Sheesh. I’ve gotten myself all worked up just writing about the things that get me all worked up and I’ve barely broken the initial paragraph of my list of irksome things. Why am I so bothered by this stuff?  I don’t even live in Chicago anymore!

Okay, 2020. I vow not to let these little things irk me any longer. There are plenty of bigger things to irk me. Don’t get me started.

In closing, let me wish to all my Third City readers a safe, happy, healthy and as best an irk-free new year that you can manage.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Dreamy Thanksgiving

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Jim Siergey: Dreamy Thanksgiving

December 4th, 2019

Nobody wants to hear about somebody else’s dreams but…it was Thanksgiving morning when I had this dream so that sorta makes it special.

It took place in an old wooden building. The wood was well worn like an old barn but it had several levels. I was coming down a rickety old staircase and when I came to the landing I saw someone down below.

He was crouching over and locking a tall door. The door had three hasps with locks, one at the top, the middle and the bottom where this suit-clad figure was crouching and affixing the final lock.

I called out to him and said, “I bet you thought you’d be the last to leave, didn’t you?”

He turned to look at me and I saw that it was Barack Obama.

He smiled at me, arose and came over. We shook hands and I told him how appreciative I was of what he had said and done.

barackobamaeatingmatzah

He was in my dreams…

 

I began to wonder where I was. Was this a school? Had Obama been a teacher of whom I was appreciative or was I telling him how appreciative and proud I was of his service to the country? And that door he was locking up…was that the door to the world that we once knew?

Pretty heavy, huh?

He then asked me what I was going to do now. I said that, as usual, I had no idea or direction. I knew that I wasn’t good at school stuff so that was likely out of the equation. He then asked if I had thought about therapy.

I wasn’t sure if he meant I should study becoming a therapist or that I should see one. As if in response to my wondering he said that he was friends with a very good one and he could give me his card if I was interested.

We descended another set of old wooden stairs in silence and when we came upon an open window I stopped to look out of it.

I wanted to see if my wife was out there. There were a lot of people milling about on the grassy expanse but I was able to spot my wife. She was clad in a purple blouse and she was looking up at me. I turned to say my final good-byes to Obama. I even had my hand extended for a farewell handshake.

But he wasn’t there.

He was down below making his exit through an odd-looking triangular door. I rushed down but it closed before I reached it. I tried but I could not open it. I even put my shoulder into it but it wouldn’t give.

I banged against it a few more times but unlike every movie or TV show I’ve seen, not a hinge would loosen. I finally stopped and in my peripheral vision I saw someone sticking their head inside from the edge of the wall. That’s when I realized that the entire wall was just a façade.

The fellow came around from outside and opened the door for me. I stepped out into the outside world with all of the other people and began to search for my wife.

That was when I awoke and found my wife sleeping beside me.

As I sit here now, I wonder if I should have taken that card with the therapist’s name upon it?

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Almost & Never

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Jim Siergey: Almost & Never

November 21st, 2019

I recently read a post online stating that it was the birthday of Stan Musial. Stan “The Man” Musial is a Hall of Fame Baseball player who thrilled baseball fans in the 1940s and 50s. He was a hitting machine who hit for a high average and with power. He spent his entire 22 year major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals.

He was also known for his harmonica playing.

Reading this sent me back to the summer of 1963. With a group of guys, all of us barely in our early teens, I went to Wrigley Field to watch a doubleheader between the Cubs and the Cardinals. Yes, Virginia, baseball once regularly played doubleheaders.

I even remember the scores of the games, mainly because they were so disparate. Game One was 1-0 and Game 2 was 16-15 complete with a plethora of home runs.

Willie Mays
I was kind of excited because I was going to see the great Stan Musial in the flesh. It was at the end of his career, in fact it was the final season he would play, and he wasn’t the great hitter he once was but, hey, it was Stan the Man in person!

It turned out to be one of those lessons in not setting one’s hopes too high because Stan the (Old) Man struck out three times and looked terribly overmatched with each swing. He wasn’t even able to hit a foul ball.

I shoulda known better.

A couple of years earlier, my father took me to a White Sox-Yankees game at old Comiskey Park. Once again I was excited because I would get to see the great Mickey Mantle play.

Being a Chicagoan and a Sox fan, I, of course, hated the Yankees. Unlike our hometown teams, all they did was win. However, one could not ignore some of the great players on those teams and Mickey Mantle was one of the greatest of the current crop.

Mickey Mantle
Well, he didn’t strike out three times. He didn’t even play! (He was probably hung over, grumble, grumble). I did get to see him sitting on the bench in the dugout. Big whoop.

In the late ‘60s the Giants were in town playing the Cubs in, yep, a doubleheader. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to see the great Willie Mays so I hustled on down to Wrigley Field.

The Friendly Confines were surrounded by a throng of humanity milling about in an unsuccessful bid to enter the sold-out ball park. There seemed to be as many people outside the park as there were inside. A friend of mine lived kitty-corner from the park on Sheffield Avenue so I went over there. We turned  the TV on but kept the sound off because we opened all the windows and listened to the sounds of the ballpark and the crowd.

So close, yet so far away.  Say hey.

The moral of this story is if you’d like to go to a sporting event in order to see a star player in person, you’d best not include me. Disappointment is the name on the back of my jersey.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Food For Thought

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Jim Siergey: Food For Thought

October 22nd, 2019

I’m not one to get all political in the tripe I type for this here revered Third City blog site but…(and that’s a but as big as the one currently occupying the Oval Office, but I digress).

I read an article in the newspaper about a poll regarding Americans’ aspects of “US Identity”. A good deal of it was encouraging.

According to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, majorities of Americans agree that diversity strengthens the country and that values such as constitutional rights, a fair judicial system and The American Dream are key to the nation’s identity.

That’s nice to know. Unfortunately, the afore-mentioned podex in the Oval Office does not appear to agree with those notions.

However, as the poll divides itself among white, black and Hispanic Americans and Democrats and Republicans, opinions differ.

General-Tsos-Chicken-4-680x453Nothing like a heaping plate of General Tso’s Chicken!

 

 

75% of Dems think diversity makes the country stronger, compared with 50% of Repubs. 51% of Americans say there should be an essential U.S. culture and set of values that immigrants must assume upon arrival while 46% say the country should be comprised of a blend of cultures and values that change as new people arrive.

77% of Republicans say that immigrants should adapt to a shared American culture while 57% of Dems say that recent immigrants have actually done that.

More than twice as many Republicans as Democrats say it is important that our nation’s culture is grounded in Christian religious beliefs.

I’ve never understood why religious beliefs are so important. Isn’t what’s in a person’s heart and what he does more important than to whom or what he prays or whether he prays at all? Then again, what would we do without hatred and envy?

The poll goes on to say that Americans are closely split over whether it’s better for immigrants to embrace a single U.S. culture or to add their own variations to the mix.

Closely split? Nearly half of Americans don’t want immigrants to add their variations to our culture?

Are these Americans willing to get rid of St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and in Chicago, Pulaski Day? Are they ready to eliminate from their diets such foods as pizza, tacos, gyros, pierogi, sushi, General Tso chicken and iced Thai coffee?

The gustatory list goes on and on and on…and on. If we eliminate all foods that immigrants have brought to our country all we’ll be left with is Yankee pot roast, fried chicken and grilled cheese sandwiches. Those dishes ain’t exactly bad but variety is the spice of life, eh what?

Come on, you rigid half of America, embrace diversity. You won’t know how much you miss it until it’s gone.

This is yet another reason why it’s important to vote and, especially now, to vote blue. If not, you may find that, among other things, your bibimbap has been taken away.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Exorcise

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Jim Siergey: Exorcise!

October 12th, 2019

I’m getting to that age where I have to exercise just to stay in shape.

Not the kind of exercise in which to pump up or train for a marathon or even to play a game of pick up basketball, although the game de rigeur for seniors now is something called Pickleball which appears to be a form of table tennis where the floor is the table and the ball is wiffle.

Nope, it’s exercise for the sake of staying limber and supple so one can move about without groaning and get up from a chair without grunting. Yep, I have reached that point in life.

Accepting my fate, I removed myself to the basement where I removed the clothes, unopened mail and a couple of boxes of doo-dads and whatsits from the treadmill, plugged it in and climbed aboard.

burtreynoldsanddogGetting in shape like Burt & friend…

 

I set my pace and began treading. Not treading water, mind you, but walking at a somewhat brisk pace akin to a hamster in a plastic ball. No running. I save that for when I need to catch a bus or to grab a fire extinguisher when one of my stir fry forays gets out of hand.

On I treaded. Five minutes. Fifteen minutes. Around the twenty five minute mark I began to feel a strange sensation.

My body began to feel prickly and little beads of water appeared on my forehead. My back felt damp too. OMG—it was sweat!  I was sweating!

I quickly turned off the machine and hopped off. There was sweat on my body, actual sweat. Seizing a New Yorker magazine that was lying nearby I tore out a page and mopped my brow.  I had to actually mop my brow! Oh, sweet Jesus, take me now!!

I have spent my entire life avoiding anything that might make me sweat and there I was, intentionally doing something that produced icky sweat to appear on my pristine body. Oh, the humiliation. Could I possibly sink any lower?

Now, I must admit that despite my best attempts at avoidance, I have sweated at times during my lifetime.  On some hot summer days I have ventured out of the shade and in my frivolous youth, I actually helped people move. Carrying boxes and furniture up and down stairs and in and out of trucks can bring about those horrid little beads of perspiration.

But, mostly, I have avoided physical labor.

As a youth, the sport I chose to play was baseball. You stood around in the field and only had to move if the ball was hit toward you and after three outs were recorded you got to come in and sit around until it was your turn to get up to bat. What a great sport.

But that was then, this is now. Here I am, knowing that I need to incorporate some exercise into my life while at the same time also needing to live up to my lifetime goal of avoiding sweat. What’s a body to do? Especially a body that desires mostly to be at rest.

Maybe isometric exercise is the way for me to go. Or isotonic exercise. I think that’s a thing. Many years ago I drank some isotonic vodka.

Mmmm, vodka…

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Slice Of Life

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Jim Siergey: Slice Of Life

October 6th, 2019

I once had a job slicing ham. The time I spent there was less time than it would take you to make a ham sandwich.

I was eighteen or nineteen years old, not the perfect age for someone seeking a dependable employee. I was the poster boy for that depiction yet somehow I got hired.

My boss was Mrs. Novi. She ran a deli section contained within the confines of a variety story. Y’know, one of those stores that sold a little bit of everything—clothing, records, books, notions, toys, hardware, garden stuff, pets, furniture, etc. It also had a lunch counter and, like the deli section, a self-contained candy section.

It was akin to a Woolworth’s, if anyone remembers those stores.

Mrs. Novi was built like a linebacker and barked like a drill sergeant.  There was no messing around with her and with the deli section being so small and self-contained there was no area in which to laze about for a bit.

I was disheartened about this because lazing about for a bit was my forte.

My job was to work the large shiny meat slicer where all day long I sliced ham. That was it. Slice ham. There was no waste either. If I came across any fat or hard pieces I was instructed to slide them in between the slices.

fargo-articleLargeMeat cutter…

 

 

The deli section also had one of those hot dog carousels. When the wieners had been on there so long that they were turning crusty, Mrs. Novi would cut them up and sell it as ham salad.

Like I said, no waste.

I pulled an eight hour gig slicing ham and let me tell you it was as exciting as it sounded. But, being of good stock with somewhat of a work ethic I showed up again the next day.

I put in another four hours of slicing ham with Mrs. Novi’s judgemental eye boring into me every time I happened to cease my meaty monotony for a moment. Then lunchtime arrived.

I went to lunch and decided that I just couldn’t continue any longer in this line of work. So, kissing that buck and a half an hour wage goodbye, I did not return.

I went home to catch up on my lazing about. I didn’t want to get rusty. After a couple hours, in which I got in a good work out, the telephone rang.

I answered and on the other end was a frantic Mrs. Novi. It was a side of her that I had not experienced before. She pleaded with me to come back to work. The next day was the beginning of the weekend, which meant a very busy period for the deli section, and she needed me.

She needed me.

Of course, the next day I went back and spent the weekend slicing ham.

I guess I got inured to the tedium of this temporary occupation because on Monday morning I made my way back to Mrs. Novi’s deli. Little did I know that a surprise would await me.

As I arrived and went to don my apron I found it no longer hung on its hook. Instead it hung around the neck of my replacement who turned out to be a good friend of mine. We looked at each other. He shrugged in embarrassment and my inner emotions went through a whirlwind of betrayal and relief.

I wasted no time in exiting the store, just in case there was another position available in the deli.

And, yes, it was many years before I was able to once again bite into a ham sandwich. But I have never ever again eaten ham salad.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Wait

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Jim Siergey: The Wait

September 22nd, 2019

Getting seated at the restaurant was difficult.

We stood behind the “Please Wait to be Seated” sign as we watched a crowd of people try to sort something out. We looked and listened as we loitered and learned that the cause of the ado was because of someone trying to “pay it forward”.

An elderly gentleman in suspenders holding onto one of those strap-on canes said “I don’t understand what is happening.” His puzzled wife hovered next to him gently touching his arm. A younger man tried to explain. “My family and I are here to have a nice time. We just wanted to pay for your dinner.”

Somehow this caused a problem with the person running the register who asked for assistance and turned what had been intended as a covert act of kindness into a bit of a brouhaha.

A small town snafu.

A small town in northeast Indiana is where we were. We had to temper our big city impatience and go with the flow which seemed to be operating as a trickle.

We were eventually recognized and led to a table in the corner and provided with menus.

There we sat for what some might call an eternity but I’ll just call a long time.

“You’d think someone would at least say hello and give us glasses of water.” my wife thirstily opined.

(Spoiler Alert: It took over an hour to get those glasses of water.)

Finally a plump young lady clad in waitress garb came over.

“I’m sorry.” she squeaked, “No one told me you were here.”

You’ll notice I wrote that she ‘squeaked’. She did indeed. Her voice was so high-pitched, tiny and squeaky that she sounded like Betty Boop on helium. Even more disconcerting was that she was not a tiny woman. She was, in fact, rather zaftig.

The excuse, however, was thin. There were only about four tables worth of diners in the spacious room. Not wishing to be Ugly Out-of-Town Americans, we kept our thoughts to ourselves.

First we each asked for a glass of water. In a pipsqueaky voice she explained that she would have brought us some but could only find one clean glass. So we ordered some wine.

The-weight-single-main

A different kind of wait…

 

In her unnerving kewpie doll voice she reminded us that purchasing a bottle would be more dollar smart than ordering wine by the glass. The menu stated that there were some wine choices from a nearby vineyard. Always willing to partake of the local wineries we ordered a bottle.

Time passed. We and the wine aged.

By and by, she appeared with two bottles in hand from which we could choose. Neither was from the local vineyard. We opted for an Italian merlot. She decanted and, after reminding her of our request for water, we imbibed of the grape.

As we waited for our food order, which were only appetizers, we saw another couple arise from their seats and abruptly leave. A shake of a lamb’s tail later, the light in the larynx lass appeared with a tray of food for that very table. She watched forlornly as the would-be diners, whose time limit for waiting had expired, disappeared out the door.

We wondered whether we should volunteer to consume their order since it was there for the taking but chose not to do so. That may have been a mistake.

With a now half empty bottle of wine on our table, I attracted the attention of the cashier. “Is there some way we could get glasses of water?” I politely asked. She looked startled and wandered off.

More time passed and we continued to sit under what seemed like one of Harry Potter’s cloaks of invisibility.  It was mostly the vino that kept us there.

Imaginary trumpets blared and fireworks were set off as the teensy toned waitress appeared with our food orders. We thanked her and again asked about the agua. After we had masticated and swallowed some of our food, two glasses of H2O were delivered, as I earlier noted, a full hour after we were initially seated.

We slaked.

We were now the only people, other than the cashier, in the area. We ate our fill, grabbed the not yet emptied bottle and took our bill, which the waitress did not forget to bring to our table, up to the cashier.

To my chagrin she asked, “How was everything?”

Leaving toothmarks in my tongue, I shrugged and mumbled, “Ohhh, okay.”

I’m a fucking saint…or something.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Hair Today

 

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